We salute our alumni working on the front lines or behind the scenes to combat COVID-19 and provide comfort during the pandemic.

We are grateful for their efforts and are proud to highlight the power and impact of the HMS alumni community through the stories below.

In Your Words

  • Jeffrey D. Edwards, MD '03

    Personal Statement
    Submitted May 4, 2020

    As a pediatric intensivist in New York City, I would like to salute all the pediatric and other providers. They are extending themselves, or have been redeployed, to care for patients they usually do not. Across NYC, pediatric residents and fellows have volunteered—or been sent—to adult units. They are caring for adults with COVID-19. At my PICU at Columbia University, we have a sizeable number of adults (we are not used to patients in their 40s and 50s) with COVID-19. They are intubated and even on extracorporeal support. We also have had probably the largest number of critically ill children with COVID-19 in the U.S.—some with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and some with severe non-respiratory illnesses from COVID-19. Everyone is doing his or her part.

  • Jay Kaplan, AB ’71, MD ’75

    Poetry Submission
    Submitted April 20, 2020

    Pothole or Portal

    The streets of New Orleans

                   are known for their potholes

                                  ever present         varying in shape and depth

                                  often not seen until too late

    walking or driving along without a care

     you are caught off guard

                                                 jolted

                   just how much injury has happened

    you’ll discover that with your next move

    now

    you are told to stay at home

    and think you might be safe

    but inside you begin to recognize there are similar difficulties

    internal potholes that seem to have been hidden

    amidst the busy-ness and speed of everyday life

                   now temporarily that noise has been silenced

                                  and you are left with the ruts in your road

    and given the stress of your isolation they deepen

    and become harder to see and avoid

    you fall into fear

    and then into anger

                                                 and then into grief

                                                                and then into regret

    you’ re not good enough

    you ‘re not doing enough

    it’s your fault

    you chose the wrong path

    now

    look to your left

                   look to your right

    are you with people alongside you           arm in arm

    or do you feel alone

    and lonely

     

    what can be done to transform your potholes into portals?

    what I mean by this is

    instead of tumbling into hurt

                                                 and having to climb out

    you pass through

                   to a new place where you’ve not been before

                                  where your fear becomes your nerve

                                  and your worry becomes your hope

                   where that which has been holding you back

    now urges you on

    where the jolt is now two elbows touching

                   encouraging a connection that is flexible and strong even if momentary

    where injury and pain are expected because you care as you do

    as you stride on with humility and daring

    the road remains the road

    you are different

                   you see the difficulties as challenges

                   you feel  the ground and do not doubt its ability to support you

                   you accept that with all that you are not you can still inspire

                                  and bring hope and love to those around you

    Inside this portal you will not be deterred

  • Mark G. Lebwohl, MD ’78

    Personal Statement
    Submitted April 21, 2020

    When the coronavirus pandemic first broke on the news, we were inundated with patient and physician emails, texts, and phone calls. We have several thousand patients on biologic therapies, many of which were based on work done in our department. All were concerned about the possibility that these treatments would suppress their immune system and make them more susceptible to COVID-19. We reviewed and quickly published data from pivotal trials comparing viral respiratory infections for the biologic treatments for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis to their placebo controls. These became the source of recommendations made by several patients and medical organizations on the management of patients on those medications during the pandemic. That was easy compared to the clinical challenges at Mount Sinai. Despite converting all of my office visits to telemedicine, I had to come to work every day because our 26 residents and large staff were spread out among Mount Sinai’s eight main hospitals, leaving only a skeleton crew for Dermatology. Many of them contracted COVID-19 and fortunately, all are recovering. There is no doubt that the “all hands on deck” call at Mount Sinai saved the lives of many New Yorkers.

  • Christine A. Loock, MD ’80

    Personal Statement
    Submitted April 27, 2020

    My days right now are spent in a virtual [virtuous] world that begins just before the sun comes up. East Coast colleagues begin their daily toils whilst most here are asleep, except the birds and worms and me.

    In my role as the Medical Director of RICHER, an outreach Social Pediatrics program, to our Inner City, and my other foot in the BC Children’s Hospital as the Medical Director of our provincial Cleft Palate Craniofacial Program, I have had to learn how to schedule and coordinate meetings on several platforms, keeping our distances, but promoting our social capital. My academic “social contract” with UBC is to provide learning and research opportunities to medical students and other trainees who have a passion for addressing inequities in access and outcomes for children and youth with special needs.  

    Our RICHER program, described as linking in and linking across, addresses the financial and social inequities to access in the inner-city schools and neighborhoods in our otherwise very wealthy city. This is ground zero for the opiate epidemic, on the heels of homelessness and HIV, and a not so hidden mental health desert. Our hospital-based cleft palate team works with families who experience the added stressors of disability, distance, and discrimination.

  • Chris O’Donnell, MD ’87, MPH ’94

    Personal Statement
    Submitted April 20, 2020

    I am deeply involved in the Veterans Administration as both a clinical chief and a researcher leading a COVID-19 effort in the Veterans Administration Million Veteran Program.

“I’ve been spending my days brainstorming how to best protect our staff on the front lines in the face of mask shortages (in addition to clinical work, of course).
I invented an idea a few weeks ago to use a snorkel mask attached to a medical grade HEPA filter to protect frontline providers.
After a pitch to my Dept at Brigham, I was able to start this project with a co-resident (who had a similar idea!) as well as an amazingly motivated and talented group of engineers, designers, and project managers from Google!
Our project has taken off and we created a fully incorporated non-profit organization called MasksOn. Please visit our website at MasksOn.org to see what we’ve been up to!”
“Social distancing in the hospital elevator.”
“My kiddo getting ready to be redeployed.”
“Thankfully, we don’t have too many patients that have tested positive, but the peak in Georgia is likely May 1. Will likely see more sick mamas in the coming weeks. My institution has been exceptional in providing us with the PPE we need to feel safe.
My department chair, Dr. Denise Jamieson, has been a thoughtful, accessible, and exceptionally data-driven leader. We are currently doing two-week in hospital shift intervals, divided “blue team” and “gold team.”
When not in the hospital, our department has created online learning for our residents in real time with faculty, Zoom journal clubs for faculty, telehealth visits for patients, and faculty development series.
I am extremely proud to work alongside such an incredible team!”
“Using telemedicine to keep our patients safer at home.”
“Our transition during the pandemic. Going from hosting a medical talk show to seeing COVID rashes in my office.”
“HMS Dean for Students; first day on the COVID service.”
“In medicine we are all facing the challenges of managing so much uncertainty, filling unfamiliar roles, and practicing in the absence of data and precedent. There is a lot of focus on heroism on the front lines, and that is certainly very real.
There are less visible deep layers of heroic work happening all around us and witnessing these efforts is a source of consolation in this time of desolation. In this picture I am at the MGH Chelsea Respiratory Infections Clinic.
This clinic offers an incredibly carefully organized and streamlined approach to diagnosis and treatment of patients with suspected SARS-CoV-2 which was up and running, initially on the main MGH campus, within days of the initial cases in Massachusetts.
RICs are staffed by volunteers from across the system—people who realize they have a skill to offer, and find time to do so. This eagerness and creativity in offering whatever we can is a theme I am seeing across the system at every level.
Primary care offices rapidly converting to virtual visits and finding ways to field the flood of messages from concerned patients, a team of volunteer clinicians calling higher risk patients to check in on them and talk through hopes and worries,
another available by page offering peer support both practical and emotional—these are efforts in which I am honored to play a small role and which give great solace.”
"Me preparing to give a Zoom lecture on “COVID-19 Older Adults & Delirium in the Emergency Department.”
"I—and the rest of my ICU team attendings—are providing care to patients in the COVID-19 unit of our hospital.
The characteristics of COVID-19 have caused us to modify our approach to these patients in many ways, such as early proning.
I hope that the fluid I designed based upon the biophysical properties of phospholipid nanoparticles continues to show, as it has in the early stage of the clinical trial,
the ability to enhance oxygenation and elevate blood pressure in COVID-19 and other patients, even when all else has failed.
"Dr. Robert Klein Class of 1971 is an infectious disease consultant for New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor and Phelps Hospital Northwell Health in Sleepy Hollow (both located just north of New York City).
Specifically, Bob works for Hudson Infectious Disease Associates, and they received their first COVID-19 patient on March 9.
Bob could have retired and not faced the risk, but after a discussion with his wife, Fran, he decided to keep working and do his part.
To deal with the inundation of critically ill patients, his hospitals had to make quick changes such as converting a surgical recovery room and a cardiac step-down unit into intensive care units.
These additional beds—as well as their traditional ICU beds—were all full, and every ventilator in the hospital was being utilized. Bob kept working through all of this (even as younger health professional colleagues contracted the virus), and he is still
working. Even though the pandemic there is waning slowly, they are still very busy with critically ill patients. Almost all of Bob's 1971 classmates are isolating in place, and for us, Bob is a true hero putting himself at risk for his patients."